Russell County High School student puts his cooking skills to the test

Education

RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A student chef at Russell County High school has won several cooking competitions and is now taking over the school’s baseball concession stand.

Senior Antonio Jackson (AJ) has found his calling in life: cooking. Since Jackson was a child he always had an interest in culinary arts, he grew up in a family that enjoyed cooking. After spending time in tourism and hospitality classes he finally joined culinary arts his junior year.

“Being in this class is really helping me because I always wanted to pursue a career in culinary and I do want to open my own restaurant one day,”

When culinary instructor Chef Mark Thorne learned Jackson wanted to open his own restaurant one day, he decided to give him a shot at running the school’s baseball concession stand.

“So AJ has been really unique because this is his first year where we’ve kind of had this concession stand kitchen. I was able to kind of put him in here, I showed him how to do everything one time and he has ran with it,” Thorne said.

Jackson prepares Philly cheese steaks, hot Dogs and the school’s signature dish, Russell County High School French Fries. Jackson takes ordinary fries to the next level. The fries are topped with buffalo chicken tenders, homemade ranch and nacho cheese. Jackson told News 3 this experience is molding him to be an even better chef.

“It’s really helping me because I always wanted to pursue a career in culinary and I do want to open my own restaurant one day. So it’s helping me learn how to control all of that and how to understand everything that’s going on.”

Jackson isn’t just putting his culinary skills to the test with a crowd of hungry baseball fans, he’s also preparing dishes for judges. Jackson competed in a beef cooking competition, coming in second place. He prepared a New York strip with skillet mashed potatoes and his signature mac & cheese for the judges.

Jackson isn’t the only student chef with a signature dish under his spatula. Senior Patricia Williams came in first place at RCHS cooking competition and second place at the state cooking competition in Birmingham, Ala. Williams won the judges over with her teriyaki steak skewers, fried rice and grilled pineapples.

“I always cooked when I was little with my mom, we were always cooking. My Nana cooked, they’re all good cooks. It’s just something that holds my attention all the time instead of something else that’s just boring,” Williams said.

Thorne has been the culinary instructor at RCHS for the past seven years. He said it’s amazing to see his students accomplish their goals.

“It’s really just an awesome thing, I mean you have that pride for the students and for the school. They come in here and they’re learning something that I’ve taught them and they’re able to represent Russell County High School,” Chef Thorne said.

Jackson and Williams both plan on competing in more cooking competitions and expanding their knowledge in culinary arts after high school.

All of the students in the culinary program are skilled at catering small events upon request, you can email Thorne at thornem@russellcounty.net

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